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New York City is an enormous city and the most populous one in the United States. It lies at the mouth of the Hudson River in the southernmost part of the state, which is part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.
New York City is a center for media, culture, food, fashion, art, research, finance, and trade. It has one of the largest and most famous skylines on earth, dominated by the iconic Empire State Building.
New York City consists of five boroughs, which are five separate counties. Each borough has a unique culture and could be a large city in its own right. Within each borough individual neighborhoods, some several square miles in size, and others only a few blocks in size, have personalities lauded in music and film. Where you live, work, and play in New York says something to New Yorkers about who you are.
The five New York boroughs are:
Manhattan (New York County)
The famous island between the Hudson and East Rivers, with many diverse and unique neighborhoods. Manhattan is home to the Empire State Building in Midtown, Central Park, Times Square, Wall Street, Harlem, and the trendy neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and SoHo.
Brooklyn (Kings County)
The most populous borough, and formerly a separate city. Located south and east of Manhattan across the East River. Known for artists, music venues, beaches, and Coney Island. Brooklyn is also home to the Barclays Center, an arena that hosts the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team.
Queens (Queens County)
Located to the east of Manhattan, across the East River, and north, east, and south of Brooklyn. Queens is the home of the city's two major airports, the New York Mets professional baseball team, the United States Open Tennis Center, and New York City's second-largest Chinatown (in Flushing). With over 170 languages spoken, Queens is the most ethnically diverse region in the United States, and one of the most diverse in the world.
The Bronx (Bronx County)
Located north of Manhattan Island, the Bronx is home to the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Gardens, and the New York Yankees professional baseball team.
Staten Island (Richmond County)
A large island in New York Harbor, south of Manhattan and just across the narrow Kill Van Kull from New Jersey. Unlike the rest of New York City, Staten Island has a suburban character.
The diverse population runs the gamut from some of America's wealthiest celebrities and socialites to homeless people. There are millions of immigrants living in the city. New York's population has been diverse since the city's founding by the Dutch. Successive waves of immigration from virtually every nation in the world make New York a giant social experiment in cross-cultural harmony.
NYC is the code for all New York City airports, and the city is extremely well connected by air with flights from almost every corner of the world. Three large airports, and several small ones, serve the region.
John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport (the latter in New Jersey) are large international airports, while LaGuardia Airport is a busy domestic airport. All three airports are run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
John F. Kennedy International Airport
(JFK) is in the borough of Queens. There are eight terminals that are not very close to each other, so it is important to note which terminal your flight leaves from.
JFK AirTrain - a people mover system that runs 24/7, connecting all airport terminals with nearby rail and metro stations. Runs services to:
Howard Beach Station to connect with the "A" train (to Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan). When returning to the airport on the "A" train, be sure to board a train to Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park, NOT to Lefferts Blvd. Look for this destination sign on the side of the train as many tourists often mistakenly take the Lefferts Blvd train when not paying attention.
Get around in NY
Most of NYC is laid out in a grid. By convention, Manhattan is spoken of as if it runs north to south, with streets running east and west and avenues running north and south. This makes it relatively easy and straightforward to find your way. Streets are numbered and the numbering rises as you go north. Most avenues are numbered from east to west below 59th St. Building numbering on avenues starts at the south end of the avenue and rises as you move north, while building numbering on streets starts at Fifth Ave and increases as you go east or west crosstown.
As a convenient guide to distance, there are 20 blocks per mile along the avenues (walking north/south). The average person can walk roughly 1 block per minute, or 60 blocks (3 mi) per hour. Walking east/west on the streets, blocks are generally much longer.
In Queens, avenues, roads, and drives generally run east/west and increase numerically as you proceed south. Streets run north/south. Queens and Northern Blvds run east/west.
The Bronx is a continuation of the Manhattan street numbers. 3rd Ave is the only numbered avenue in the Bronx.
For shorter distances, there is no better way of getting around New York than hitting the sidewalk. If you use the subway or buses, you will almost certainly need to walk to and from stations or stops. In all areas of New York a traveler is likely to visit, all streets have wide, smoothly-paved sidewalks. For long distances, walking is also fine and a great way to see the city.
What to see
Like most of the great world cities, New York has an abundance of great attractions - so many, that it would be impossible to list them all here. What follows is but a sampling of the most high-profile attractions in New York City.
Many tourist attractions in New York City offer free or discounted admission on certain days, eg Museum of Modern Art's Free Friday, or Museums on Us® program by Bank of America.
Naturally, Manhattan possesses the lion's share of the landmarks that have saturated American popular culture. Starting in Lower Manhattan, perhaps the most famous of these landmarks is easy to spot - the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the nation standing atop a small island in the harbor, and perhaps also the most difficult attraction to access in terms of crowds and the long lines to see it.
Moving north to Midtown, Manhattan's other major business district, you'll find some of New York's most famous landmarks. The Empire State Building looms over it all as the second-tallest building in the city, with the nearby Chrysler Building also dominating the landscape.
Still in the Midtown area but just to the west, in the Theater District, is the tourist center of New York: Times Square, filled with bright, flashing video screens and LED signs running 24 hours a day. Just to the north is Central Park, with its lawns, trees and lakes popular for recreation and concerts.
Museums and galleries
New York has some of the finest museums in the world. All the public museums, which are run by the city, accept donations for an entrance fee, but private museums can be very expensive. In addition to the major museums, hundreds of small galleries are spread throughout the city, notably in neighborhoods like Chelsea and Williamsburg. Many galleries and museums in New York close on Mondays, so be sure to check hours before visiting.
The following is just a list of highlights; see district pages for more listings.
Arts and culture
New York City is home to some of the finest art museums in the country, and in Manhattan, you'll find the grandest of them all. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park has vast holdings that represent a series of collections, each of which ranks in its category among the finest in the world.
Near the Metropolitan, in the Upper East Side, is the Guggenheim Museum. Although more famed for its architecture than the collection it hosts, the spiraling galleries are ideal for exhibiting art works. Also nearby is the Whitney Museum of American Art, with a collection of contemporary American art.
In Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum of Art is the city's second largest art museum with excellent collections of Egyptian art, Assyrian reliefs, 19th-century American art, and art from Africa and Oceania, among other things.
Science and technology
In New York City, no museum holds a sway over children like the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan's Upper West Side. Containing the Hayden Planetarium, incredible astronomy exhibits, animal dioramas, many rare and beautiful gems and mineral specimens, anthropology halls, and one of the largest collections of dinosaur skeletons in the world, this place offers plenty of stunning sights.
Near Times Square in the Theater District, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum takes up a pier on the Hudson River, with the aircraft carrier Intrepid docked here and holding some incredible air and space craft.
Over in the Flushing district of Queens, on the grounds of the former World's Fair, is the New York Hall of Science, which incorporates the Great Hall of the fair and now full of hands-on exhibits for kids to enjoy.
Another standout museum is the Transit Museum located in an abandoned station in Downtown Brooklyn. The old subway cars are a real treat and the museum is a must if you're in New York with kids (and well-worth it even if you're not).
Though the image many people have of Manhattan is endless skyscrapers and packed sidewalks, the city also boasts numerous lovely parks, ranging from small squares to the 850-acre Central Park, and there are worthwhile parks in every borough. From the views of the New Jersey Palisades from Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, to the grand Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx, and the famous Flushing Meadow Park in Corona, Queens, site of the U.S.
Note that except for special events, all NYC parks are closed 1AM–6AM. Also, as a reminder to youngsters, it is illegal to climb trees in the park in New York City.
What to do
A general word of advice on sightseeing in New York:
Tourists often spend their entire vacation in New York standing in line. This is often unnecessary; there are usually alternatives. For example, one can choose to avoid the Empire State Building during the day, skip the Statue of Liberty in favor of the Staten Island Ferry, and stay away from the Guggenheim on Monday, since it is the only one open on that day. Also, there is no reason to stand in line for a Broadway show if you already have a ticket with an assigned seat.
In New York City it is common for street vendors to set up tables on the sidewalk, close to the curb, and sell items. They are required to obtain a permit to perform this activity, but it is legal. Purchasing from these vendors is generally legitimate, although buying brand name goods from these vendors is ill advised as the products being sold may be cheap imitation products.